Where we Eat: the Wine Exchange Bistro and Wine Bar Romanticized by Baby Baby, Chainsaw Hookers and Drew Smith
Custodian: Are you going to celebrate the “hallmark” holiday tonight?
Me: I’m going to take my wife somewhere to eat.
Custodian: You know this isn’t a real holiday right? It was just made up to sell cards?
Me: Not a problem because I am going to steal my card. And we are going to eat at some independent place so that no corporation gets their hands on my pot of money.
Custodian: You’re weird.
I’ve heard it all before and I agree, to a certain extent. I know Valentine’s Day isn’t a “real” holiday. It was made up by someone somewhere to celebrate love. But, and I’m not sticking up for Cupid here because he can fight his own battles, every holiday was created by someone somewhere to celebrate something. Valentine’s Day isn’t the only one. I also know that the big V-Day is a “hallmark” holiday, one that celebrates empty consumerism, gluttony and buying things that are unnecessary. But I also know that the current versions of Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July and Halloween are also celebrations of consumerism, gluttony and buying things that are unnecessary. As for the “hallmark” thing, I get a lot more Christmas cards than I do Valentine’s ones.
In the end I use Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate my local restaurants and write a love note to J-Fur. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
For this year’s celebration I didn’t tell J-Fur where we were going to eat. As I drove she mentally tried to figure out where we were going. First she thought it was Cilantro. Then it was Sawatdee Thai. Then it was The Loving Hut (I know she believed that one even though she insists she didn’t). Finally, when we were a block away, she said “Are you taking me to that wine bar?” I smiled. The look that crossed her face was priceless.
I had the same reaction a few weeks ago when I went to the Wine Exchange Bistro and Wine Bar for a party. I pushed through the doors thinking anything with wine in the name is automatically not a good place to eat. I figured I’d eat a small appetizer and then go home to cook my own food. But I was famished after my early morning run and I needed to eat something. I ordered the Gnocchi without bacon. One taste and I not only knew I’d be back but I knew J-Fur would be with me.
So here we were. On this evening we started with the Hummus Amongus (not pictured because we ate it too fast). For 8.25 you get a small glass that has a layer of white cannelloni beans and black bean hummus. It is topped with salsa and served with a ton of pita bread (take note Acropolis). I wasn’t too excited about the hummus, especially at that price. Yes it was unique and there was enough pita to eat it all, but I expected it to be amazing. In a perfect world one would be able to take the Acropolis’ hummus and combine it with all the pita that that Wine Exchange gives you. Now that would be an appetizer that I might pay seven dollars for (but not eight).
Next up our waitress brought out some bread and olive oil. Slightly crusty and warmed the bread and olive oil combo was amazing. It melted in your mouth. The spices weren’t overly strong to drown out the olive oil, allowing the taste of each (bread, oil, spice) to shimmer and shine. For the main course I ordered spinach ravioli while J-Fur went with the Gnocchi.
The ravioli is stuffed with spinach and ricotta and then covered with olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato and basil. The ravioli itself was a bit of a disappointment. I expected more from the spinach-ricotta filling. They didn’t really have much taste. The highlight was the olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil topping. Slightly sweet and smooth with more than a hint of garlic the topping took a sub par ravioli and made it good.
If this were a concert the Gnocchi would be the headlining rock star act. To start with the gnocchi is slightly toasted. This takes something that can, in the wrong hands, be slimy or soft and creates a subtle chewiness instead. It is then topped with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, basil and tomato. The result? A nearly flawless gnocchi. In J-Fur’s mind the only gnocchi that can come close is the cheesy, tomato drenched version at Gennaro’s.
The only downfall for the Wine Exchange is the price. It isn’t the type of place I can go anytime I want as it costs too much. But for those special occasions, I’ll certainly be back.
My Valentine’s music mainly consisted of ironic videos and Drew Smith. First there was the new video from Baby Baby “Haters” that was released earlier that day. Bicycle rides, clowns, bad birthday parties, train rides and beating up kids about sum it up:
After that I went with the new video from Chainsaw Hookers “Never Sleep Again.” This video hits home as it is basically a dream sequence that I go through on a nightly basis. Of course I’m the one that is doing the chasing. (That sounds bad doesn’t it?):
Drew Smith has finally completed his new album, The Secret Languages (first mentioned here) and it played its way through my Valentine’s evening. The album continues to soar and emote in a way that reminds me of a stripped down Radiohead. Aside from the previously posted “Love Teeth” I also really enjoyed “Mute”, “Frozen Still” and “Grotesque.” “Mute” works best with pasta.
The cupid image at the top came from the Little White Lion blog.